Parents of several of Colonial's English Language Learners gathered at Plymouth Elementary School for a light breakfast and presentation on the English as a Second Language (ESL) program and activities they can do at home to help their children improve their English skills.
The ELS teachers shared ideas such as:
- Encouraging children to read at home by having a variety of reading materials, including books, magazines, comic books and websites.
- Putting together "STEAM boxes" that include straws, pipe cleaners and other items from around the house that students can use to build things, prompting the child to make something and asking the child to explain the steps he or she used to build the creation.
- Labeling the different items in their houses with the English word and the one from their native language (the example was a small card that said "bookshelf").
"Learning the content that the other students in the classroom are learning — while also learning a new language — can be pretty challenging," said Dr. Katy Giovanisci, Curriculum Supervisor. "We want parents to know that we're here and available to help."
One parent's story
Parent Renata Silva has a son in 7th grade and a daughter in 4th grade, and she said that her children have made great strides in their English language development since coming to Colonial from Brazil last year.
"One year ago, my son didn't speak a phrase in English, only a few words, and now he can write, he can read, he can read books with 300 pages. My daughter, she is nine, and she is reading The Wonder. She asked me to buy the book for her, and she finished it in only two weeks," said Mrs. Silva. "I don't have words to say how grateful I am. It's amazing what ESL has done for them."
Mrs. Silva added that the family sits together in the evening, the children explain what they learned during the day, and then they help Mrs. Silva and her husband with their English.
"They are teaching us," Mrs. Silva added. "You can't imagine how fun it is."
SIOP in the classroom
Colonial uses the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) method for ESL. SIOP gives these children the opportunity to stay current with their classmates in the different subject areas by having the ESL teachers push into the classrooms to give one-on-one and small group language support to the children while they learn the same concepts as their peers.
At the breakfast presentation, the team also reminded the parents that their children will be recorded as new part of the Pennsylvania standardized testing for students in the ESL program. These students also take the regular PSSA with the rest of their grade.